- Phil West
- Kurt Cobain
- Jason Everman
||Hair Swinging Neanderthals
Nirvana transcends all the pretensions that go along with being rock stars. They come across as the type of earthy psycho scums you wished you could beat up in high school. They view music as a trend, think the SubPop movement is sincere but "the ultimate rehash" and "the last wave of rock music,'' and singer / guitarist / group founder Kurdt Kobain, on the average, listens to three records a month. They started out in ultimate hick-town Aberdeen, and their current Olympia base hardly qualifies them for urban art
Although Nirvana looks like nothing special in this context, they could be the greatest contribution that Seattle's grunge-oriented SubPop Records makes to society. Kurdt originated the Nirvana sound during high school days in Aberdeen.
"I wasn't thriving socially, so I stayed in my room and played guitar all the time," he said. "At the time, I thought I was inventing a new sound that would change the whole outlook of music. I've discovered in the last few years that it was just the Seattle SubPop sound."
The core of their sound is based in primal Black Sabbath and Stooges punk/metal riffing, but it carries a dark, raw, earthy, grungy tone that separates them from their labelmates. Kurdt, after a long pause, decided their music has a "gloomy, vengeful element based on hatred."
A lot of this is rooted in his adolescent small-town experiences. "In Aberdeen, I hated my best friends with a passion, because they were idiots. A lot of that hatred is still leaking through."
It's not all hatred though. Their debut album, Bleach, contains two straight-ahead, blow-pop tunes that attest to Kurdt's feeling that things are going his way. This newfound
positivity has led to a "gay pop songs phase that will eventually die," yet they'll probably write more of them on the next album.
Most of Bleach contains the style which made SubPop seek the band out, after a demo that Kurdt and bassist Chris Novoselic did with the drummer from Aberdeen's SubPop predecessors, the Melvins. The album like their initial demos, is a full mix of heavy dirge songs, which new guitarist Jason Everman has the most fun with, upbeat power grunge, guttural lyrics, scream-singing and to-the-point titles like "Swap Meet" and "Negative Creep."
Lyrics range from simple repetition about rural hick-jerks to detailed narratives of horror-torture. The end effect, epitomized in their live shows, channels Kurdt's subversive intellect into an aggressive release, while they purge themselves in search of the great exalted god riff. Even during shows like a recent Annex Theater show marred by failing equipment and an overzealous crowd slamming into the broken monitors, they lock into a larger-than-life sound on every song.
Although a national tour is planned and a wave of positive press is following them, they remain mostly unaffected. Chris and drummer Chad Channing still work as dishwashers, Jason is living off savings from four years of "commercial fishing hell," and Kurdt lives off his "nice, sweet, and wonderful" girlfriend.
"I'd like to live off the band," Kurdt said, "but if not, I'll just retire to Mexico or Yugoslavia with a few hundred dollars, grow potatoes, and learn the history of rock through back issues of Creem magazine."
But if Nirvana does become part of the last wave of rock, what will replace them? "I don't think we'll have to worry," Jason said.
Kurdt's a little more nihilistic. "If it was up to me, I'd get more oil tanker drivers drunk," he said. "I don't value music much. I like the Beatles, but I hate Paul McCartney. I like Led Zeppelin, but I hate Robert Plant. I like the Who, but I hate Roger Daltrey."
© Phil West, 1989